3/30/11

So Much to Choose at Choice Eats

Well, it's been almost 24 hours since I left Choice Eats and I'm still full. I thought I'd found gluttony at its finest, but I must correct myself. With more than 65 food vendors amongst several more beverage purveyors, this event, held last night at gigantic The 69th Armory in Gramercy, was one hell of an awesome hodge-podge, mish-mash, stuff-your-face-athon.


The Village Voice has been putting on this tasting for four years now, and though this was my first time attending, I will definitely be looking forward to it every year I'm still in NYC. I arrived at the Armory about 5:50 to discover a general admission line already wrapped around the building. The organizers were thoughtful enough to invite several food trucks to feed the masses waiting patiently to get in, including Waffles and Dinges, Taim Falafel (which I still have yet to try!), Kimchi Taco and Korilla BBQ.

 

Thankfully I didn't have to wait in that line as the press entrance was with the VIPs (oooh la la). I met up with my friends Laura and Caryn of 89th and Broke, and we scoped out the downstairs VIP room before the official event began. Unfortunately, several of the food vendors had already run out, but we did try some meat from Jimmy's No. 43, amazing shrimp tacos from Mercadito and fresh bread and mozzarella from SCRATCHbread. Red Hook Lobster Pound was serving lobster rolls to the VIPs, but we just missed the last batch. They were our first stop in the main event upstairs, but they were only serving shrimp rolls at that point. Still totally delicious, and the woman in charge was very excited to announce a new NYC food truck that will be making stops in FiDi (yay!) - follow @redhooklobster for updates.

Shrimp roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound
Our next stop was Luke's Lobster since we figured the line would get insane, but again, only shrimp rolls. I passed on that one since there were so many other options. I decided to be adventurous and try the mac 'n cheese hot dog from Ditch Plains. Not my favorite, but mainly because it was cold and last I checked, both a hot dog and mac 'n cheese should be eaten hot. Their display was awesome though, complete with salt water taffy that people were grabbing by the handful.

Ditch Plains' Mac 'n Cheese Hot Dogs
Our next stop was at a gem from my UES neigborhood, Cascabel Taqueria. Not only did I love their display, complete with Mexican wrestling figurines, but their food was delicious. Tacos on warm tortillas with real guacamole and authentic churros! A flash back to my childhood in Southern California, for sure.

Churros from Cascabel Taqueria
Taco from Cascabel Taqueria
Sliders were everywhere you looked at Choice Eats, but a few stood out from the rest. The Sunburnt Calf made my night because served with their Pulled Lamb Sliders with Minted Yogurt was a tequila, strawberry and passion fruit shot. Yum! Black Shack Burger had a great beer-braised beef in sloppy joe sauce that we all agreed was tasty, and though not really a slider, This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef served up some of their famous roast beef and cheese whiz sandwiches. The latter promised hot pastrami, but when it was ready an hour later, I was stuffed to capacity and the line was crazy long. Mooncake Foods was also showcasing sliders with their pulled pork sandwich with cabbage slaw and a lime and curry BBQ sauce that really made this sandwich pop.

Pulled Lamb Slider with Minted Yogurt and Tequila,
Strawberry and Passion Fruit shot from The Sunburnt Calf
Beer-Braised Beef in a Sloppy Joe Sauce from Black Shack Burger
A slightly mushed Roast Beef and Cheese Whiz
 sandwich from This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef
The Latin contingent was highly represented. In addition to Cascabel that I mentioned earlier, Mexico Lindo was dishing out homemade tamales and Caracas Arepa Bar blew my mind with mini versions of their awesome arepas. I tried the one with Guyanes Cheese and Plantains. Patacon Pisao threw a one-two food punch by delivering two of my favorite dishes of the night - a Venezuelan arepa with creamy cheese filling surrounded by fluffy cornbread and a gooey tres leches cake. This may have been the only stop I went back to for seconds.

Tamale from Mexico Lindo
Cheese Arepa from Patacon Pisao
Tres Leches Cake from Patacon Pisao
With still so much left to discover, yet with stomach gurgles far from gone, we ventured through several more cultural eats, off the wall bites and just good cookin'! Motorino was scooping out light and airy Neopolitan Meatballs in a savory tomato sauce with Pecorino Romano cheese. Dirt Candy, a vegetarian joint with some awesome humor (and a display complete with those giant lollipops you used to make your parents buy at Disneyland), perhaps had one of the most innovative dishes of the night - smoked cauliflower with buttermilk waffles and wild arugula. The Fat Radish, another vegetarian-friendly stop, also served another innovative dish that I truly enjoyed - root vegetable stacks with date puree and vegetable crisps. Wish I got a photo of that one! It looked like an orange brownie. One of my  favorite West Village wine bars, Gottino, was represented by servers in bow ties spreading Pesto Di Noci and breaking off hearty chunks of parmegiano reggiano.

Neopolitan Meatball from Motorino
Smoked Cauliflower with a Buttermilk Waffle and Wild Arugula from Dirt Candy
Pesto Di Noci and Parmesano Reggiano from Gottino
Mama's Food Shop, a must-try when you are in the East Village, was serving their Three Cheese Mac and Cheese - super rich and creamy. Speaking of rich and creamy, I was happy to find that Fay Da bakery was ladling out bubble tea in addition to their sweets and baked goods. The sweet tea was calming to have with some of the spicier dishes. Another East Village favorite, Porchetta, was serving delicious porchetta (what else?) on crusty bread. The General Tso's Broccoli Salad Sandwich from No. 7 Sub Shop was difficult to eat, but the broccoli was flavorful and refreshing after all that meat. Something that surprised me was the simple hot dog from Bark Hot Dogs. Laura and Caryn were commenting how it seems that so many hot dog places try to cover up the meat with so much gloppity-glop, but in truth, all you need is a good dog. Bark had that and it was scrumptious. I was also pleased with the simplicity of the cold noodles from Spicy Bampa, the spiced lamb sausage from Northern Spy Food Co. and the Rueben meatballs from The Meatball Shop - all wonderful dishes. What took the cake though, literally, was the Napoleon Cake from Cafe Glechik, a Ukranian-fusion restaurant in Brooklyn. Oh. My. Goodness. That cake was to die for! It even came with some cherry dumplings which complemented the creamy cake super well.

Three Cheese Mac and Cheese from Mama's Food Shop
General Tso's Broccoli Salad Sandwich from No. 7 Sub Shop
Hot Dog from Bark Hot Dogs
Napoleon Cake with Cherry Dumplings from Cafe Glechik

At this point awesome readers, I'm not so sure how I was still standing. My friend Jen finally made it through the admission line around 7:20, so we walked around finding bites for her while I sipped my water bottle and began the digesting process. We picked up goodie bags courtesy of Whole Foods and even witnessed a toilet explosion and subsequent flooding of the women's restroom (right as I was first in line mind you), so that made for an exciting end to the night. On our way out, I was too full to participate in Choice Sweets, a last sweep of dessert tables featuring mini cupcakes, ice cream and slushes, but Jen eyed a bacon cupcake and said it was delicious. Until next year Choice Eats (just remind me to pack my fat pants)!

Mercadito Avenue B on Urbanspoon

The Red Hook Lobster Pound on Urbanspoon

Cascabel Taqueria on Urbanspoon

Sunburnt Calf on Urbanspoon

Black Shack Burger on Urbanspoon

This Little Piggy Had Roast Beef on Urbanspoon

Mexico Lindo Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Patacon Pisao Truck on Urbanspoon

Dirt Candy on Urbanspoon

Bark Hot Dogs on Urbanspoon

Cafe Glechik on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. Can you gain weight by looking at pictures and reading descriptions? I think I have!

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  2. Excellent recap! Although I'm getting sick just remembering how much we ate last night! I've said it before but it's true - Choice Eats is simply my favorite food day of the year! Just another 364 to go...

    ReplyDelete
  3. just reading this made me feel a little fuller! hehe. looks like an AWESOME time!

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